'Percy' ready to test Gold Cup credentials in Durkan return
Presenting Percy is set to make his seasonal reappearance in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown on Sunday.
The Pat Kelly-trained seven-year-old has not been seen in competitive action since claiming his second Cheltenham Festival success with a hugely impressive display in the RSA Insurance Novices' Chase in March.
He is a best-priced 5/1 favourite to complete a Festival hat-trick and claim Cheltenham Gold Cup glory this season and owner Philip Reynolds is looking forward to getting his campaign under way.
He said: "All being well with Presenting Percy this week, the John Durkan at Punchestown on Sunday is where he is heading.
"He has been really, really well and I think Pat (Kelly) would have had plans to start him before now, but the dry ground scuppered any other plans that he had.
"The John Durkan is a nice starting point for him and if it did rain this week, two-and-a-half miles around Punchestown can be like the best part of three miles on a flatter track."
Presenting Percy is one of 19 entries for what is the 20th running of this Grade One contest. Willie Mullins has won three of the last five renewals and his seven-strong team is headed by Punchestown Gold Cup hero Bellshill, Clonmel Oil Chase winner Kemboy and nine-times Grade One winner Un De Sceaux. Al Boum Photo, Black Hercules, Invitation Only and Min are his other contenders. Gordon Elliott also has seven entries, with Cheltenham Festival heroine Shattered Love seemingly a likely runner.
The Gigginstown House Stud-owned mare won the JLT Novices' Chase at Prestbury Park and made a pleasing reappearance when second behind Snow Falcon at Down Royal.
Elliott said: "She might run in the John Durkan. She's a good mare and I was happy with her first run back in Down Royal. She would have come on a lot for the run. Her next run will tell us what road we go. She is a mare that could run well in a Gold Cup."
A Toi Phil, Alpha Des Obeaux, Doctor Phoenix, Don Poli, Outlander and The Storyteller complete Elliott's squad.
Tony Martin's Cheltenham Gold Cup third Anibale Fly, Henry de Bromhead's Ryanair Chase victor Balko Des Flos, the Joseph O'Brien-trained Irish Gold Cup winner Edwulf and Disko from Noel Meade's yard complete the list.
Elsewhere, Un De Sceaux, last year's winner, is also one of three possible runners for Mullins in the Kerry Group Hilly Way Chase at Cork on Sunday.
The perennial champion trainer has saddled 10 of the last 11 winners of the Grade Two contest and looks to have every chance of adding to his tally.
The remarkable Un De Sceaux made a successful start to the last campaign when dominating his rivals 12 months ago, but whether he returns to defend his crown remains to be seen as he also holds entries in the Tingle Creek at Sandown and the John Durkan.
His stable companion Min has the same three options, while another Mullins inmate, Great Field, could run at either Sandown or Cork.
The Closutton trio feature among 12 entries for the Hilly Way. Other contenders include the Elliott-trained quartet of A Toi Phil, Dinaria Des Obeaux, Doctor Phoenix and Mrs Lovett.
Henry de Bromhead has entered Special Tiara and Three Stars, while Tony Martin has Anibale Fly also in the mix.
Meanwhile, Altior will face a maximum of nine rivals in Saturday's Betfair Tingle Creek Chase.
Nicky Henderson's charge is unbeaten in 14 starts over jumps - a run that features three successive wins at the Cheltenham Festival, including the Champion Chase in March.
A well-publicised breathing problem ruled him out of the Tingle Creek and the first half of the last campaign.
However, he has top-class form at Sandown - having won the Celebration Chase in each of the last two seasons - and he is reported to be firing on all cylinders for his imminent return.
Henderson told At The Races: "So far he has been frighteningly good, but it's never going to be easy - it's going to be a tough race."